Bringing Worker Voice Into Generative AI



The purpose of this paper is to identify ways to bring workers’ voices into the development and use of generative artificial intelligence (AI). Studies of employee involvement and participatory design show benefits for organizations and the workforce when workers are involved in the process of designing and implementing new technologies that affect their jobs. Drawing on more than 50 interviews we conducted, we identify lessons new deployments of generative AI tools can take from research on worker voice to ensure that the adoption and use of generative AI are beneficial for workers,  organizations, and society. We then discuss how workers can be involved in four stages of the technology development process: defining the problem, codesigning the technology and work processes, education and retraining, and fair transitions for affected workers. Evidence from recent interviews and past research indicates that input from workers can increase the likelihood that organizations use generative AI tools effectively and workers’ job quality improves. The evidence collected also suggests that generative AI is particularly well-suited to “bottom-up” development and use based on workforce experimentation.  Moreover, we document the growth in labor union capacity for and actions in representing workers by collaborating with business, developer, and academic institutions, negotiating new collective bargaining provisions governing use of AI, and educating their members on these issues. Our recommendations outline concrete steps for ensuring that generative AI will both drive innovation and help shape the future of work to the benefit of all stakeholders.

For more info Thomas Kochan George Maverick Bunker Professor of Management, Emeritus (617) 253-6689